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Justice 2 Committee

8th Report, 2004 (Session 2)

Stage 1 Report on the Fire (Scotland) Bill 

CONTENTS

REMIT AND MEMBERSHIP

REPORT

ANNEX A – REPORT FROM THE FINANCE COMMITTEE

ANNEX B – REPORT FROM THE SUBORDINATE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE

ANNEX C – EXTRACTS FROM MINUTES

ANNEX D – ORAL EVIDENCE AND ASSOCIATED WRITTEN EVIDENCE

24th Meeting, 2004 (Session 2) 9 September 2004

Oral Evidence

Scottish Executive

25th Meeting, 2004, (Session 2) 14 September 2004

Written Evidence

Chief Fire Officers Association

Fire Brigades Union

Retained Firefighters Union

Supplementary submission from the Fire Brigades Union

Oral Evidence

Chief Fire Officers Association

Fire Brigades Union

Retained Firefighters Union

26th Meeting, 2004, (Session 2) 21 September 2004

Written Evidence

HM Fire Services Inspectorate

COSLA

Letter from Jeff Ord, HMFSI for Scotland, 4 October 2004

Supplementary submission from COSLA - Letter from Stephen Fitzpatrick, COSLA to Ian Snedden, Scottish Executive, 27 September 2004

Supplementary submission from the Fire Brigades Union

Oral Evidence

HM Fire Services Inspectorate

Scottish Fire Services College

COSLA

27th Meeting, 2004, (Session 2) 28 September 2004

Written Evidence

Fire Officers’ Association

Letter from the Scottish Executive, 24 September 2004

Letter from Hugh Henry MSP, Deputy Minister for Justice, October 2004

Oral Evidence

Fire Officers Association

Deputy Minister for Justice

Internet Publication

(The following written evidence is published on the internet)

Association of British Insurers

City of Edinburgh Council

Dumfries and Galloway Fire Authority

Fife Fire Authority

Grampian Fire Board

Hannigan, Colin E

Highlands and Islands Fire Board

Institution of Fire Engineers

Lothian & Borders Fire Bridage

Robertson, Roddy

Scottish Trades Union Congress

Smith, James

Strathclyde Fire Board

Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team

UNISON

Justice 2 Committee  

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider and report on matters relating to the administration of civil and criminal justice, the reform of the civil and criminal law and such other matters as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, and the functions of the Lord Advocate other than as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigations of deaths in Scotland.

Membership:

Miss Annabel Goldie (Convener)

Jackie Baillie

Bill Butler (Deputy Convener)

Colin Fox

Maureen Macmillan

Mr Stewart Maxwell

Mike Pringle

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee

Tracey Hawe

Gillian Baxendine

Senior Assistant Clerk

Anne Peat

Assistant Clerk

Richard Hough

Justice 2 Committee

8 th Report, 2004 (Session 2) 

Stage 1 Report on the Fire (Scotland) Bill

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

INTRODUCTION

  1. The Fire ( Scotland) Bill was introduced on 28 June 2004 by the Minister for Justice, Cathy Jamieson. On 30 June, the Parliament designated the Justice 2 Committee as lead committee on the Bill. Under Rule 9.6 of the Parliament’s standing orders, it is for the lead committee to report to the Parliament on the general principles of the Bill.
  2. The Justice 2 Committee received reports from the Finance Committee and the Subordinate Legislation Committee. These are attached as Annexes A and B.
  3. All evidence provided to the Justice 2 Committee is included at Annexe D to this report.

BACKGROUND AND CONSULTATION

  1. The existing legislation governing the fire service is the Fire Services Act 1947. The Scottish Executive suggests in the Policy Memorandum that, although parts of the 1947 legislation are still perfectly adequate, to rely on existing legislation would mean that the Scottish framework “would be skeletal in comparison with the England and Wales legislation; would be difficult to read; and would do little to progress the modernisation agenda.”1
  2. This Bill follows a two-year period of consultation which started with the publication in April 2002 of a wide-ranging Executive consultation, “The Scottish Fire Service of the Future”. This was followed in December 2002 by the report of the UK Government’s Independent Review of the Fire Service (the Bain review);2 and in June 2003 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published a white paper on the fire service in England and Wales. In October 2003 the Scottish Executive published its consultation paper on proposed legislative changes,3 which formed the basis for this Bill.
  3. The principal purposes of the Bill are the delivery of a modernised fire and rescue service responsive to the demands of the 21st Century;4 providing a mechanism for a National Framework to set out central Government strategic direction by way of national and local priorities and objectives; and revision of fire safety legislation.
  4. Much of the detail of the new framework will be set out in secondary legislation and in the National Framework. The Executive has indicated that there will be a range of further consultations, a number of which will be taking place during the passage of the Bill.
  5. It is difficult to reach a conclusion on parts of the Bill without more detail about what is intended. We also note the concerns of the Finance Committee, in its report to the Justice 2 Committee, that it is being asked to scrutinise the financial implications of this Bill while there are a number of key policy decisions, which may well have substantial costs implications, still to be taken (in relation to control room arrangements, the Firelink project and integrated risk management plans (IRMPs)).
  6. The Committee therefore welcomes the Executive’s intention to consult during the Bill’s passage on a range of areas including the National Framework, fire safety regulations, charging and functions orders and the new advisory structure.

EVIDENCE TAKEN BY COMMITTEE

  1. The Committee issued its call for evidence in July 2004 and received 24 written responses. On 9 September we took oral evidence from the Executive Bill team. On 14 September we took evidence from the Chief Fire Officers Association Scotland (CFOA), the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Retained Firefighters Union (RFU). On 21 September we took evidence from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire Services for Scotland (Jeff Ord), the Scottish Fire Services College and COSLA. Finally on 28 September we took evidence from the Fire Officers Association (FOA) and the Deputy Minister for Justice, Hugh Henry.

ISSUES CONSIDERED BY THE COMMITTEE

General

  1. The evidence we received indicated that the Bill and its policy intentions were generally welcomed. All of our witnesses agreed that the existing legislation should be brought up-to-date, to reflect the breadth of the role and functions carried out by the fire service and to deliver a clear framework of responsibilities for fire safety.
  2. A range of specific issues was raised and these are discussed in the following sections. Some witnesses also had broad concerns about the overall approach taken by the Bill including the balance between central strategic direction and local accountability; the extent of Ministerial powers; and the need for clarity about governance of the fire service.
  3. CFOA pointed out that the Bill has some 27 areas where Scottish Ministers take powers to direct the way in which fire services will be managed.5 They felt that there should be a clear division between the three different levels of responsibility, with strategic direction from Ministers, governance with fire authorities and management from the firemaster.6 CFOA suggested that the bill does not make “those lines of responsibility clear enough to enable us to ensure things do not get clouded”.7 Among other things, they wanted to see a direct statutory line of reporting responsibility from the firemaster to the fire authority, as exists in the 1947 Act.8
  4. The FBU shared some of these concerns, wanting clarity in the legislation about the responsibilities of chief officers and about the local democratic control to be exercised by fire authorities.9 COSLA also expressed concern that the legislation did not clearly enough set out the local democratic and operational control which they saw as essential for an effective fire service.10
  5. The Chief Inspector, Jeff Ord, was less concerned about the extent of Ministerial powers, which he perceived as “no greater than what many ministers already have in relation to other essential public services”.11 His perception was that the concerns being expressed could be resolved through detailed drafting changes but that the overall form was broadly right, and necessary to achieve further modernisation.12
  6. The Minister also sought to reassure the Committee about the powers conferred on Ministers by the Bill. He emphasised that “the fire and rescue service will remain a local government service and that its day-to-day operation and management will take place at local level.”13 On the specific issue of the firemaster’s role, he was confident that this could be made clear through contractual arrangements or the fire board’s standing orders, given that the board is the accountable body for the fire service.14
  7. The Committee is content with the overall approach to the Bill but, in the light of the concerns expressed, asks the Minister to give comfort to the Committee and the Parliament at Stage 1 by clarifying who would be in overall command and control in a major fire situation.

Footnotes:

1 Policy Memorandum paragraph 12

2The Future of the Fire Service: reducing risk, saving lives

3The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service: Proposals for Legislation

4 Policy Memorandum

5 Official Report , 14 September 2004, Col. 942

6 ibid, Col. 944

7 ibid, Col. 945

8 ibid, Col. 942

9 ibid, Col. 964

10 Official Report, 21 September 2004, Col. 1025-6

11 Official Report, 14 September 2004, Col. 999

12 Official Report, 21 September 2004, Col. 1000

13 Official Report, 28 September 2004, Col1057

14 ibid, Col. 1065